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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2001

Education called key to vote on Section 79

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday started what he said would be an “educational campaign” to convince voters to allow the city to participate financially in the proposed Marina District on the Maumee River.

City officials are asking for an exemption of the restriction in Section 79 of the City Charter which prohibits municipal funding for a sports arena, convention center, or similar project.

The mayor said the Sept. 11 ballot issue is not a repeal of Section 79, and stressed that it would allow the city's financial participation in the Marina District only.

He said the city would spend about $8 million in capital improvement funds for such things as streets, sewers, and parking for the proposed 125-acre project along the east bank of the river.

The election is necessary because the venture proposes a 10,000-seat sports arena as well as apartments, restaurants, office buildings, and retail outlets.

The mayor said city funds would not be used for the construction of the sports arena, only for the infrastructure to serve it.

Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged that some people have questioned the East Toledo location for a new arena and have suggested that one be built closer to where the ballpark for the Toledo Mud Hens is under construction. Such a move, Mr. Finkbeiner said, “would decimate the warehouse district,” because too many buildings would have to be razed for an arena and adjacent parking.

“You can walk to a ballgame,” the mayor said, but in winter fans would want nearby parking to attend a hockey game.

A grass-roots group, the Downtown Arena Consortium, formed by design consultant Lou Ann Mills, favored placing an arena on Madison Avenue. Ms. Mills was not available for comment.

The mayor said any money spent on capital improvements for the proposed $175 million project would be made up by the revenue the project generates.

He said the ballot issue is not an attempt to circumvent Section 79, but complies with the requirement that voters decide if the city can fund a portion of the project.

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